TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — A local security firm says it’s been inundated with phone calls since the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting over the weekend.
“Phone calls increased drastically,” Theo Billiris, owner of ESS Global Corporation told ABC Action News. “Most of the time is the church is asking for assessments, can you come to our church and tell us where we’re vulnerable?”
ESS Global Corporation, based in Tarpon Springs, specializes in church security: a specialty some never imagined there’d be a need for.
“Historically, churches have always been a ‘safe place,’ right? It’s a place you thought you could go to for worship, fellowship, nothing bad happens here per say. As we all know, that’s changed,” Billiris said.
Because of that, he works to train security - and congregations themselves - on what to do in the event of a shooter. He says security starts outside.
“If you could have greeters that stand outside maybe staying in the parking lot, you know at the end of the sidewalk, 'hey how you doing I’ve never seen her before, what’s your name?’ Cause what that does is it puts them on notice. We know you’re here.”
Billiris walked us through the inside of a church he’s worked with, saying he looks for exits.
“I’m looking at things like hard rooms. I’m looking at things like evac routes; security plan for the congregants,” he explained.
Billiris says he recommends earpieces and radios as a way to increase communication throughout the building - quickly.
Jason Klimis, pastor of the Fellowship of Believers in Christ in Tarpon Springs, told ABC Action News, “Unfortunately it’s a reality we need to be prepared for.”
He’s used ESS Global Corporation’s services. Even before the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that left 11 people dead, he accepted the need for more security
“Having security people that are constantly diagnosing your current situation as it grows and changes, I think it’s the most proactive thing we can do,” Klimis said.
Billiris says you can’t just have a plan. You need to practice it, just as you would a fire drill.
“Your response is going to greatly determine, do I live today?” he said.
Congregation Rodeph Sholom on Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa is holding a community vigil, to remember the lives lost in the Pittsburg shooting, Monday at 7:00.